Karate and Writing

Karate really does do all the things they say it does: the self-confidence, the health benefits, the works.

I mention it because only this week did I make an interesting connection between Karate and my writing. In November of 2014, I participated in Nanowrimo and completed my goal. The very next day, I got an invitation from TheSurvivalMom.com to be a contributing author. And that led indirectly to the invitation to speak at the League of Utah Writers conference in Fall 2016, which led indirectly to my joining the team over at Fiction Vortex. And last week (May 2017) I started work as an Acquisitions Editor with Immortal Works.

Maybe it’s not flashy or exciting, but that’s a lot of success, at least by my own definition of success. I am not making any meaningful money, but I get to write about things that interest me and people take me seriously and can tell people I am “in publishing.”

I’ve wanted to get to this point for ages, ever since my senior year of college when it dawned on me that I hated translating Arabic newspapers, but obviously it didn’t happen right after college. I read somewhere that sometimes people are afraid to try for their dreams because they don’t think they’re worthy. That’s something that I really struggled with in the past to a huge degree. I’ve always been an underachiever, ever since I was a little kid. And then when I got rejected by the CIA in Oct 2005 I felt really depressed for a while because obviously I wasn’t “good enough.” Ever after publishing my first short story in 2011, I was beset by imposter syndrome.

So what changed? Why is all this happening now and not ten years ago? What happened in my life in 2014? I am sure it was the Karate. I started in 2008, and in March 2014 I took my black belt test.

It was a grueling time – the style I subscribe to won’t give a black belt to just anybody, so you really have to earn it. The Powers That Be do this by making sure you are completely exhausted before they even look at your material. It usually takes 4-6 hours and you’re not allowed bathroom or water breaks. The black belt test wasn’t just the test, it was also the several months of extreme training leading up to the test. It was all worth it, though. When they gave me that black belt, I got all choked up and teary eyed.

Once you’ve survived a black belt test, everything else is a cakewalk. Natural Childbirth? Easy. Five children? No problem. Supporting my husband to quit his job and live on savings for two years so he could get his degree? Not even a big deal. Being a real author? Can do. I even thought for a while about running for public office. When I realized how much I would hate being in public office I put this idea behind me, but still.

Post-black belt, I started thinking of myself as a real writer with something meaningful to contribute. I started sending out stories – lots of them – for publication. I got a lot of rejection letters, and sometimes I did feel sad about it, but I didn’t let rejection stop me. I did “morning pages” as defined by Julia Cameron in her book “The Right To Write.”

I suppose if you really wanted to find a moral to the story, you could; probably something along the lines of “start taking Karate!” or even “if you don’t stop trying, eventually you’ll succeed.”

A Bacon Story

This last year for Christmas my husband received a shirt that sports the text, “That is too much Bacon, said no one ever.” And indeed, there is something about bacon that has proven itself irresistable to the American palate. I’m sure someone somewhere has published scientific research on the subject, analyzing the perfect interplay of salty, sweet, and umami flavors that give bacon its umph.

Not everyone in the world likes bacon, or even eats it. Some Middle Eastern countries, for example have banned the product entirely, as the purchase and consumption of pig products violates the Muslim dietary code.

How do I know this? Well, besides holding a college degree in Middle Eastern Studies (which these days I mostly use to get into pointless arguments over Facebook) I also happen to have lived in several Middle Eastern countries over the course of my life. My family moved to Kuwait in August 1999 when I was one month away from my sixteenth birthday (which is a story in and of itself, let me tell you!)

So here’s our funny bacon story. Fast forward to June 2000. My family was back in the states after spending the last year in Kuwait, where as I mentioned before bacon is actually illegal.* My dad’s employer put us up in an extremely posh hotel for several days. The first thing we did after waking up from a night of jet-lag-induced sleep deprivation is stagger downstairs to the luxurious breakfast buffet.

We’re humble Americans with simple tastes. It’s no surprise that after living for 10 months in a bacon-deprived society we made a beeline for the giant platter of bacon right in the middle of the buffet table.

“Ohh, Bacon!” we cried as we each took four or five pieces. (Because, you know, we didn’t want to be greedy.) We took our plates back to the table where we devoured it with all the delight of a relapsed alcoholic at an open bar. We smacked our lips and licked our fingers. When we had finished, we each returned to the giant platter of bacon and took four or five more pieces. And then four or five more, until we could see the bread at the bottom of the platter that had been used to absorb the excess bacon fat.

Did I mention that there are five of us? Only two other people occupied the dining room at the time. It was with some embarrassment that we realized our family had been entirely responsible for consuming the entire platter of bacon!  I’m sure that establishment lost money on us.

Other things illegal in Kuwait: liquid extract of vanilla (because it is alcoholic), holding hands with the opposite sex in public (urban legends abound of married couples getting busted), American-made skittles (the confectioner’s glaze is pork-gelatin; Austrailian-made skittles are ok, though.)



On Corned Beef and Cabbage

A version of this post first appeared on my other blog in March 2013. It has been updated and edited for grammar and clarity for your convenience.

Ah, another St. Patrick’s day is upon us. I am not really into the lesser holidays, of which St. Patrick’s day is one. I know some of my cousins and friends go all-out and decorate their whole house with green and wear green from head to toe. I’m just not that way. I did wear a green shirt to church when March 17 fell on a Sunday a few years ago, but after seeing pretty much the entire congregation dressed in green, I wished I had worn my stripey pink shirt instead. Because that’s how I roll.

As my social media feeds fill with excitement and advertisements for traditional Irish food, my memory always goes back to my first true encounter with corned beef and cabbage. I was 19, in college, and it was not a positive experience. I’ll tell you all about it.

My significant other at the time was obsessed with Celtic culture and the British Isles. He hosted a huge St. Paddy’s day bash at his apartment and since I had been cast in the role of girlfriend, I of course attended. We watched The Secret of Roan Inish, which is a pretty decent film and drank Irish cream-flavored hot chocolate.

He made a HUGE mess of corned beef and cabbage and dished up a pretty significant helping for me. I would like to add here he did not ask if I wanted a significant portion. The provisions had been cooked in a crock pot, yet this somehow had a deleterious effect on both the corned beef and the cabbage. The beef came out dry and proved difficult to cut into pieces with a knife, much less chew. The time spent in the crock pot had definitely taken a toll on the cabbage, which had taken on the color and texture of boogers. I took two bites and decided I had better not eat any more if I wanted to keep what had been swallowed from coming back up.

Unfortunately, as will often happen in relationships when you’re young and inexperienced, I was too shy and embarrassed to actually tell him how much I loathed the food. I put the plate on the kitchen counter as quietly and surreptitiously as I could, and then pretended that I had no idea to whom the plate belonged.

“Somebody didn’t eat their corned beef and cabbage!” He exclaimed with great indignation once the other party guests had left.

“Hmm. That’s weird,” came my innocent reply. “I wonder who that was?” If ever he reads this blog, let him now know: that was me. And that is why I will probably serve tacos for dinner this year.

I Really Like Fairy Tales

Yes, it’s true. I do. I am a grown woman with a Bachelor’s degree and five kids and I am a huge sucker for fairy tales. I like to write about them a lot. (Like, really a lot) So since this is my brand new blog, I will start with one of my favorite things.

I’m also kind of a fairy tale hipster. I don’t stop at the “canon”that only includes the “classics” like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. The global corpus of fairy tales is massive. It’s huge. And to tell the truth, there are a ton out there that are way more interesting than boring old Cinderella.

Ever heard of The Nettle Spinner? Kupti and Imani? The Story of Little King Loc? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

For Christmas, because my mom knows me pretty well, she got me a volume of Chinese fairy tales and a volume of Indian ones. A couple years ago she gave me some Syrian folktales, and those books were pretty much the best thing that ever happened to me.

Quite a number are extremely unsuitable for children by the standards of our modern sensibilities. Early versions of Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel will never find their way into a book for twinkle-eyed kindergarteners. This tells me that fairy tales can be for grown-ups, too. For Christmas, because my mom knows me pretty well, she got me a volume of Chinese fairy tales and a volume of Indian ones. A couple years ago she gave me some Syrian folktales, and those books were pretty much the best thing that ever happened to me. And I’m in my early 30s.

What is your favorite fairy tale and why? Do you know any obscure ones that you wish they’d make into movies instead of endless iterations of Cinderella?


Transitions in Blogging

I started a blog over on blogger in January 2008, mostly as a way to show off my spinning and knitting projects. Then it became my personal soap box. But the thing is, I don’t need or want a soap box any more. I need (drumroll please) an Author Page, because over the course of 9 years I’ve actually started to get some publishing credits to my name. And it’s time.